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The agricultural sector is one of the key elements of the country's economy. Kazakhstan is one of the major producers of marketable grain, meat, and wool. Farming areas occupy more than 220 million hectares and grain growing areas occupy about 13-14 million hectares. Farming areas comprise 74% of the country's total area. The pasture area totals 185.7 million hectares - 68% of all the farming areas. Individuals, collective farms and organizations utilize 81% of all farming areas and 98 % of all pastures.

Kazakhstan has embarked upon agricultural sector restructuring through the establishment of new corporate entities and privatization. Private ownership is now the dominant organization for agricultural production.

The farming law provides the following rights:
·Private ownership of property (land, real estate),
·Free separation of land and property from any collective farming to establish the private farms,
·Property protection from illegal expropriation,
·Freedom of the choice concerning the type of activity followed and product operations,
·Equal access to markets, materials, information and finance.

There are 70,000 farms, of which 99,6 % were in the private sector. 61,000 farms were transferred on the basis of long-term tenure, involving 27.2 million hectares of land, 4300 farming cooperatives, over 4,000 partnerships 505 JSC and other entities. Large farms account for 73,5 % of land, small farms 18,6%, state-owned firms 4,0 %, and individuals 0,2%.

Land regulations

The 1st stage will involve the adoption of the law "On land." Private ownership of unoccupied farming lands or state reserve lands will be introduced. This will cover arable land, or land identified as being available for sale to local residents only.

The 2nd stage will complete the process of land privatization.
The land law of the Republic of Kazakhstan already allows different operations to exist, with the right to inherit ownership, or to sell, grant, lease, pledge and transfer rights to joint-stock companies, associations and cooperatives (including those with the foreign participation).
In order to attract foreign capital the period of land lease available to foreign investors was extended up to 99 years.
According to state statistical data, more than 2.3 million people are landowners.
More than 1.9 million transactions in the abatement, lease, sale and purchase of land use rights were arranged and 93% of all private farms received their land ownership confirmation documents.
The new market infrastructure is being developed in accordance with the agricultural plan, adopted by the President.
All the country's new regulations are designed to assist the development of a market infrastructure. 167 wholesale markets, 22 commodity exchanges and 13 credit associations are already functioning and associations of commodity producers and other services organizations are also established.
Currently there are 34 grain producing companies-members of the grain union of Kazakhstan. This is a NGO, acting on a voluntary basis in order to combine efforts and to coordinate the grain market activity.

Characteristics of the country's agricultural production

The territory of Kazakhstan includes forest-steppe, steppe, half-deserted and deserted zones. The natural climatic conditions determine the low natural efficiency of agricultural arable lands that require significant volumes of investments.
These investments should be distributed among the following nine agricultural production zones.
Grain-animal farming zone occupies large territories of dry temperate steppe and covers 64 agricultural districts of the country.
This zone covers 32.8 million hectares of agricultural arable land, including 14.0 million hectares occupied by grain fields (42.7%), with a per capita distribution of 51 hectares of arable lands. This is the country's highest indicator. Soils are black and dark chestnut, the annual precipitation level totals nearly 300 mm.

The large areas of arable land provide cost-effective opportunities for private grain producing industry and animal farm development. Conditions in this zone are favorable for the production of large amounts of high-quality grain as well as meat and dairy farming.

II. Animal-grain-farming zone is situated in dry steppe on dark-chestnut and chestnut soils. The annual precipitation levels totals 250 mm. This zone covers 58 agricultural districts.
It is the largest zone and its agricultural lands total up to 56.0 mln hectare including 8.8 million hectare of arable lands. Animal farming is the major activity as grain farming is less effective in this zone.

III. Fine-fleeced sheep-breeding zone covers semi-deserted areas. Soils are light chestnut and brown. The zone covers 20 agricultural districts.
The total area of agricultural land equals 30.8 million hectares, including 7.1% of arable areas. Pastures cover more than 85%. Sheep breeding and cattle breeding are the major live stock activities.

IV. Meat-tallow ship-breeding zone occupies Central Kazakhstan's semi-deserted and deserted lands.

Soils are light-chestnuts and brown, the annual precipitation average totals 200 mm in the North and 100 mm in the South. This zone covers 12 agricultural districts.
The area of agricultural land totals 38.3 million hectares, and includes 2.7 million of arable lands (4.4%) and 36.0 million hectares of pastures.

V. Karakul sheep-breeding zone covers the deserted districts with brown and gray-brown soils. The average annual precipitation fluctuates from 150 mm in the North to 100 mm in the East. This zone covers 13 districts.

The agricultural lands total 31.5 million hectares, including 0.8 million hectares (2.5%) of arable lands and 30.3 million hectares of pastures.

This animal farming zone specializes in the production of sheepskins (karakul).

VI. Animal-fruit growing zone with industrial crops zone is located at the foothills and between mountains valleys to the east and east-west of Kazakhstan. The average annual precipitation fluctuates from 200 to 350 mm. This zone covers 29 district and 15.4 million hectares agricultural lands including 2.3 million hectares of arable lands (14.9%).

It's the main zone of intensive ploughed irrigation lands (41% of the country's total amount). Valuable industrial crops are produced here (sugar beet, tobacco). Pastures cover 12 million hectares and are used for sheep and cattle breeding.

VII. Rice zone includes the downstream areas of the Sirdarija River. Soils are grey-brown and the precipitation totals nearly 120mm a year. The rice growing areas cover all districts of the Kzyl-Orda oblast (excluding Aralsk). The area of agricultural land equals 11.6 million hectares, including plough lands, and 0.2 million hectares of pastures (96%).
The rice production in the area may be combined with sheep and cattle breeding.

VIII. Cotton zone covers the middle part of the Sirdarija River. Soils are grey-brown, the annual precipitation totals 220mm.

The zone covers the following districts of East Kazakhstan Oblast: Ordabasynsky, Zhetisaysky, Kelessky, Kirovsky, Mahtaaralsky, Sairamsky, Turkenstansky. The area of agricultural lands totals 2.2 million hectares including more than 0.2 million of pastures.
This zone also provides favorable conditions for fruit farming.

IX. Suburban (vegetable-milk) zone is located close to the urban centers in densely populated areas. The climate conditions of this zone are different because it covers different districts of the country - although homogeneous economic conditions result in identical functions of production to provide urban residents with vegetables, milk products and berries. This zone occupies 3.6 million hectares of agricultural lands, 0.7 million hectares of pastures and 150 thousand hectares of irrigated lands. The zone's economic presence is small because the zone production is management intensive and labor-consuming.

Plant Growing

Non-irrigated agriculture is practiced in north, northeastern and central Kazakhstan - areas characterized by high precipitation levels. This area covers 34 million hectare - 12% of the total land area of Kazakhstan. The growth in non-irrigated areas in these regions was caused by the development of virgin and disused lands. According to the research data, 12 million hectares of ploughed land in Kazakhstan requires erosion protection and over 5 million-hectare are washed away areas.
The productive soil layer (humus) loss over the last 25-30 years has totaled 20-25%.
According to quality analysis 4.7% of the soil has a high level of humus (23.9%), 46.5% has a low level (2-4%) and 24.9% a very low level (below 2%).
Irrigated agriculture is developed mainly in southern and southeastern regions and is determined by low precipitation levels and hot climate conditions. The total irrigated land area is 2 million hectares.
The application of new water saving methods of soil irrigation and the reconstruction of land used for rice and other forms of crop growing is very costly and demands substantial investment.
A reduction in fertilizer usage has occurred in Kazakhstan due to their high cost. Increasing consumption will require investment in the mineral fertilizer production industry and the introduction of cost reducing technologies.

Grain crops
Kazakhstan is one of the world's largest grain producers and exporters. Soil and climate provide ideal conditions for growing wheat, barley, rice, corn, millet and buckwheat.
The main grain crop is wheat. Kazakhstan wheat is high-class with a high protein content.
The average annual export of grain crops for the period of 1995-1998 was 3 to 3.4 million tons, with major customers including the CIS states of the Russian Federation, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Belorus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and the Ukraine.
There is a growing tendency to export Kazakhstan grain to other international markets. The list of Kazakhstan grain importers now includes Austria, Afghanistan, the UK, Venezuela, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Turkey, Switzerland, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Korea and Mongolia.
Industrial crops
The main industrial crops grown in Kazakhstan include beet, cotton and oil crops. Cotton is the most important industrial crop grown on the irrigated soils of southern Kazakhstan. The oil crops grown in Kazakhstan include sunflower, flax, soybean, mustard, etc. The most widespread crop is sunflower.

For more information visit the website of the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan at www.agrikaz.kz